The English exam question is which option would best suit as a conclusion for the statement?

The Pacific yew is an evergreen tree that grows in the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific yew has a fleshy, poisonous fruit. Recently, taxol, a substance found in the bark of the Pacific yew, was discovered to be a promising new anticancer drug.

  • A. Taxol is poisonous when taken by healthy people.
  • B. Taxol has cured people from various diseases.
  • C. People should not eat the fruit of the Pacific yew.
  • D. The Pacific yew was considered worthless until taxol was discovered.

I would say it would be D. The Pacific yew was considered worthless until taxol was discovered. My reasoning behind that would be that the fruit was considered worthless until the anti cancer drug was discoverd. A and B do not follow. C does follow but I think C would have been best suited had the information "The Pacific yew was considered worthless until taxol was discovered." not been provided.

  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about logical conclusions, not features of the English language. May 4, 2016 at 6:31
  • 4
    @NathanTuggy I thought this site was for people trying to learn English? This is a standard type of question that turns up in thousands of official EFL tests (e.g. IELTS, FCE etc etc). If we can't help learners with this type of question then let's close down the site. Now! May 4, 2016 at 7:57
  • 1
    I, too, think it's not a question about the language per se but about reading comprehension and logic. The Wicked Witch of the West makes a delicious Pacific yew and red herring pie.
    – TimR
    May 4, 2016 at 10:46
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    @AlanCarmack Why do you think it's D? I think it's C.
    – user24743
    May 4, 2016 at 14:38
  • 1
    It's C for me too. That, or we should not visit the Pacific Northwest, which has a high cancer rate because of all of the taxol in the aquafer.
    – TimR
    May 4, 2016 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


It depends how one defines "conclusion." If it means what is the "best" thing to take away (ie conclude) from the statement, then yes C is the best; here the conclusion is not part of the text. And D's statement that the tree was considered worthless is unsubstantiated.

However, and here is how the exam question could have been eminently concerned with learning English, because writing is one of the four basic skills... If this question were asking the student to identify which of four sentences serves as the best conclusion (meaning concluding sentence) to the given statement (text), then, were this the case, the learner would have to evaluate many things about the statement, including its style, purpose, intended audience, etc. This all has to do with language learning. The thinking process would be as follows:

This text gives us a kind of history of this tree. A concluding sentence will use the same style. D continues the history of the tree, giving us a new bit of information (it was considered worthless until...) and connecting that back with the most important fact that the text mentions (taxol was discovered). This is a successful conclusion, even if "Pacific (Yew)" is somewhat repetitious. Sentence C does not fit in with the style (description) or purpose (give a history) of the text. It grossly inserts a personal prescription/directive to people, including the reader. It is out of place. It is not even close to being a good concluding sentence for this text as a text.

However, since this is not the purpose of the test and this is not what is meant by conclusion, I am much harder pressed to see what the question has to do with learning English.

  • Conclusion in the question is closer to No. 1 definition of MW: a reasoned judgment: inference. People could have cut it and used it as firewood. There is nothing that indicates it was worthless which makes D invalid. The only answer that we can infer from the quote is "we should not eat the fruit as it is poisonous". As Araucaria mentioned in the comment, it is a typical question in English tests.
    – user24743
    May 4, 2016 at 15:53

The question asks which of four options "would best suit as a conclusion for the statement" made of three sentences. Hence options A, B, C and D are not additional facts, but are statements that may be derived from the three sentences.

As a question on comprehension is it clever. It carefully mixes two sets of facts about the tree. One set concerns the poisonous fruit. The other concerns taxol which is extracted from the bark and is a promising new anticancer drug.

As a piece of English text it is poor because it leaves the reader confused about the two sets of facts.

Looking at the four possible conclusions in turn:

A: Is there something about being unhealthy that would make Taxol more or less poisonous to them as compared to healthy people? I think not. Taxol is almost certainly equally poisonous (or not poisonous) to both healthy and unhealthy people.

B: The text says Taxol is promising as a drug, not that it has cured anyone.

C: The fruit is poisonous. Eating poisons is, generally, a bad thing to do. So not eating that fruit is good advice.

D: The text says nothing about other uses of the tree. It just says the fruit is poisonous and the bark contains Taxol. The wood from many types of tree has been used for making things. Eg furniture; longbows from English Yew; bows and canoe paddles from Pacific Yew.

My analysis would suggest C is the best conclusion.

  • 1
    Did you miss that part about the anticancer drug?
    – J.R.
    May 4, 2016 at 14:45
  • There is nothing in the those three original sentences that describes taxol as toxic. I agree that we are told the fruit is poisonous.
    – TimR
    May 4, 2016 at 14:48
  • @J.R. Please explain further. I thought I had covered that point with "B: The text says Taxol is promising as a drug, not that it has cured anyone".
    – AdrianHHH
    May 4, 2016 at 14:49
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    It "just says" the tree has a recently-discovered substance that might cure cancer. You think that eliminates D?
    – J.R.
    May 4, 2016 at 14:51
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    Given the wording of the question in the link @J.R. posted, I actually agree with C as the answer. It's still not a great question, but C is the only answer with enough support in the text provided to be considered "true". If the goal was the write the next sentence of the paragraph, D would probably be better, though it relies on the writer knowing more about the tree than is presented in the text, specifically, that it was considered worthless. May 4, 2016 at 15:30

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